Two teenagers from the southern African country of Swaziland have won Scientific American’s inaugural Science in Action award, part of the Google Science Fair. The prize is awarded to a project that addresses a social, environmental or health issue to make a practical difference in the lives of a group or community.
This year’s winners are Sakhiwe Shongwe of Siteki and Bonkhe Mahlalela of Simunye, both 14. Their project explores an affordable way to provide hydroponics to poor subsistence farmers, enabling them to grow their crops and vegetables in very large quantities and within limited space without using soil.
In addition to a $50,000 prize, Shongwe and Mahlalela will have access to a year’s mentorship and will travel to Google’s California headquarters in July to compete in the 13-to-14-year-old age category in the overall Google Science Fair.
Here are excerpts from an interview conducted via e-mail with each winner before they knew they had won, by Scientific American’s Rachel Scheer.